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Step by Step, Alberta Begins Phased Relaunch of Economy

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help fight COVID-19, in Edmonton on March 20, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Jason Franson)

By Andrew Chen

Alberta has announced a “safely staged COVID-19 relaunch plan,” with some outdoor activities restarting on May 2 and selected businesses reopening as early as May 14.

Social restrictions, however, will remain in place as the province continues the fight against the global pandemic.

“[W]ith today’s launch of Alberta’s Relaunch strategy, we can finally begin to shift our focus from the pain and anxiety of the past few weeks and start looking with modest hope and cautious confidence towards the future,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a press briefing on April 30.

The government divided the process of restarting the economy into three stages but has avoided setting specific dates for each phase.

Instead, key public health “triggers,” including hospitalization, percentage of occupied ICU beds, and infection cases, will be used to signal provincial or regional decisions to move from one stage to another.

Stage one will be triggered if the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients remains stable or declines within the next two weeks. In this phase, retailers, personal care services such as barber shops, daycares, museums, and art-galleries will be allowed to operate, as well as some restaurants, bars, and cafés, with a 50 percent reduced occupancy. Additional outdoor recreational activities will also return, albeit under partial restrictions.

“Golf courses can open as soon as Sat. May 2 with restrictions including keeping clubhouses and pro shops closed,” Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw wrote on Twitter.

The current prohibition of public gatherings of over 15 people remains in place but will see some degree of relaxation in the second phase, including for movie theatres and summer camps. Additional surgeries, personal services like massages and reflexology, and K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions may restart under some restrictions.

The third and final stage will include all other businesses, larger gatherings like festivals, sport events, and industry conferences.

Kenney said that Alberta has achieved its primary goal of keeping the infection rates within the capacity of the provincial health-care system and has done a better job than other provinces in preventing total regional lockdowns.

As of April 30, there are 5,355 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections in Alberta, and a total of 89 deaths, according to the government’s website. These cases are mainly concentrated in the Calgary region, which accounts for two-thirds of the province’s infections.

Protests against lockdowns were held recently in Vancouver and Toronto, and one was held on April 29 in Edmonton on the Alberta legislature grounds, where hundreds gathered to call for some restrictions to be lifted.

One of the organizers told Global News that although he thinks the government “did the right thing” by initially imposing restrictions, there is more information and modelling now and restrictions should be relaxed

Hinshaw has warned that while the province did not see the major impacts of the pandemic as suggested by the initial models released by Alberta Health Services, they may still come true if public health restrictions loosen up too quickly.

“Albertans have responded to the worst global pandemic in over a century with a great deal of common sense, but also making tremendous sacrifices and demonstrating great resilience,” Kenney said during his briefing.

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Fresh Pal Farms/Dong Jianyi; YouTube

A Chinese agronomist has helped Canadian greenhouse technology move forward, curiously by moving backward.


Dong Jianyi uses only materials and the laws of thermodynamics to grow cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and more—even in the frigid Alberta winter—all without using a single watt.


A geologist who abandoned the oil industry due to crashing oil prices, Dong Jianyi’s Fresh Pal Farms is believed to be the largest “passive greenhouse” in Canada.


Growing vegetables in China’s cold north necessitates innovation, and passive greenhouses which don’t use electricity are common in that part of the country.
“In north China, it also gets really cold and pretty dark in winter, but people can grow year-round,” Dong told CBC. “Where I lived in China, there were so many passive solar greenhouses. But in Canada, I didn’t see any on the commercial
scale,” he said.


The 300-foot long, 30-foot wide greenhouse is constructed out of a steel frame with two polyolefin plastic roofs. An electric
motor allows operators to extend and retract an insulating blanket to trap heat absorbed during the day. This keeps the 10,000-square foot interior space at 82°F (28°C) compared to outside December temperatures of 20°F (-7°C).


On the north side lies a 24-inch thick clay wall, which captures light more easily from a south-lying sun. At night the clay radiates heat into the space, further ensuring the plants can survive winter temperature that in Olds, Alberta can fall to -31°F (-35°C).


Last year Dong grew 29,000 pounds of tomatoes alone last year while saving $30,000 in energy and heating costs.


The passive solar greenhouses have a high upfront cost, Dong admits, but they pay back the investment in subsequent years through energy savings, as greenhouses tend to be powered by natural gas.

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Alberta Starts 5-Year Plan to Boost Rural Economy

By Tara MacIsaac

Alberta announced a five-year plan to boost rural communities by investing in infrastructure, tourism, skills development, and entrepreneurship. It coordinates some initiatives already in motion and adds new ones, with more than $1.5 billion combined behind them.

Nate Horner, minister of agriculture and irrigation, said at the announcement on Wednesday: “We have all these cogs turning independently. The hope of this plan is that we bring it all together. … This will provide that communication at a government level and an intergovernmental level. Transportation, health care, broadband—all these things we know are important to our communities.”

Connecting rural Alberta to highspeed internet by 2026 is one part of the initiative. Transportation infrastructure, another part of it, will help tourism as well as businesses.

“It’s not a problem to get people to the Rockies, what about the rest of the province?” Horner said. Marketing will help bring tourists, but so will addressing problems such as the blue-green algae that fills some lakes due to runoff from homes and farms.]

The province will continue to build its agri-food industry, including investing $2.5 million in recruiting and retaining workers. It will fund Alberta’s nine regional economic development alliances with $125,000 each.

This plan will help coordinate some initiatives that have already been announced including: $933 million for irrigation infrastructure, $390 million for broadband expansion, $78 million to fund active capital maintenance and renewal projects in rural Alberta, $59 million to address a critical shortage of large animal veterinarians, $70 million to attract film productions to the province, and $8 million to support indigenous communities’ participation in rural economic growth.

Horner said new initiatives will also be announced as part of the 2023 budget.

Minister of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development Brian Jean said at the announcement: “Alberta’s economy is booming. We’re doing well, we’re the leader across the country. Weekly earnings are up, venture capital a record set this year over top of last year, which was a record year.” He said the government is investing in bringing all Albertans, including those who need some help, to greater prosperity.

Jean said: “With strengths in oil and gas, agriculture and forestry, tourism and emerging technologies, Alberta’s rural and northern communities are the backbone of our province’s economy. Actions identified in this plan will benefit rural and northern Albertans for years to come.”

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Montreal Meeting Between Prime Minister and Quebec Premier Snowed Out

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a bilateral meeting with Premier François Legault during the Francophonie Summit in Djerba, Tunisia, Nov. 19, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

By The Canadian Press

A snowstorm forced the cancellation of a meeting scheduled today in Montreal between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault.

The leaders were supposed to discuss issues on which the two diverge, such as health transfers and immigration.

A Trudeau spokesperson says the two men would instead speak over the phone and an in-person meeting would occur at a later date.

Legault and other premiers have been calling for a substantial increase in federal transfers for health care, and Ottawa has suggested it would do so only under certain conditions, including that provinces and territories share health data.

On immigration, Trudeau told The Canadian Press this week that Quebec has the capacity to welcome up to 112,000 immigrants per year, while Legault has maintained that 50,000 is the most the province can accept.

Trudeau later clarified that he had not wanted to propose an annual immigration figure to the province.

 

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